“You and I, we’re just getting started.”

Things are getting crazy in Riverdale, and this week shows that Season 3 is in no danger of slowing down anytime soon. From cults and clubs to boxing and board games, “As Above, So Below” takes the first steps down Riverdale’s darkest plotline to-date.

When we re-join Archie (KJ Apa) at the Leopold & Loeb Detention Centre, our leading man has been kept in solitary for refusing to become the warden’s new bitch. But, when isolation becomes too much, Archie agrees to the warden’s terms – to become a bareknuckle boxer for the guards’ entertainment. If you’ll pardon the pun, this episode pulls no punches in its violent scenes, using the classic boxing trope of slow-motion filming to ensure we see every knock, and the reverberations from it. Also, only three episodes into this season, and I’m one-hundred percent certain that Apa has had it written into his contract that he must be shirtless for at least half of his scenes. Although, no amount of shirtlessness will prevent the inevitable storm that’s heading Archie’s way if he continues on his current path.

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Speaking of things that might not work out well for Archie, Veronica (Camila Mendes) takes another swipe at her father this week, as she faces the first attacks from Hiram‘s (Mark Conssuelos) low-key League of Doom. Finally opening her speakeasy, La Bonne Nuit, Veronica, with a little assistance from Reggie (Charles Melton) sets herself apart as a businesswoman, and while I applaud the effort to show that Riverdale doesn’t condone underage drinking (even though they didn’t have a problem with the drug-taking last season) making a point of calling Veronica’s club a speakeasy and saying they’re serving exclusively non-alcoholic cocktails sort of goes against everything a speakeasy was designed for. Regardless, the place looks beautiful, and goes further to placing Riverdale as some kind of town outside time, keeping the beauty of retro design, while adding in the modern devices that we rely on so heavily today. Also, Josie’s (Ashleigh Murray) haunting rendition of “Anything Goes” might actually be the best entry to the Riverdale soundtrack so far.

Elsewhere, things are getting darker than ever before, as Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) continue to investigate the case of the Gargoyle King – in part, by having sex in Dilton’s creepy cult bunker. After coming to the shocking revelation that the Gryphons and Gargoyles game is likely some kind of sinister cult, the duo find themselves wondering whether the sudden arrival of “The Farm” in Riverdale at the time of this game’s emergence, might not be a simple coincidence. And so, like a classic doom-filled mystery story, Bughead split up in order to find answers.

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Learning that Riverdale High has introduced a student chapter of The Farm, courtesy of Evelyn Evernever (Zoé De Grand Maison), Betty decides to go along to a meeting to try and infiltrate the group and meet the elusive Edgar Evernever. However, what she finds out when confronted with the ladies chapter of the group, is that thanks to her mother’s loose lips in her cult “testimonies” the entire farm knows about everything from the Black Hood saga to “Chic and the shady guy” – meaning that should the Coopers ever turn against the Evernevers, the latter has enough knowledge of the felonies in the Cooper household to land the entire family behind bars. Of course, Alice (Mädchen Amick) is so deep in the clutches of the cult that she believes that ever word spoken is completely confidential – but we all know where this is going.

Jughead, in his investigation, decides to accompany Ethel (Shannon Purser) in a private game of Gryphons and Gargoyles, journeying through the Kingdom of (Riverdale backwards) in order to get his hands on “The King’s Scripture” a.k.a. the game’s instruction manual. Unfortunately for Jug, part of his game initiation sees Ethel offer up the two goblets that have often cropped up as a theme of the dangerous game, and to prove his worth, the brooding writer must choose a goblet to drink from – choose correctly and the scripture is his, choose incorrectly, and he poisons himself. He and Ethel drink, but it is she who drinks the laced blue “Fresh Aid”. Getting her to the hospital in time, it seems that all is well, but when Jug and Betty return to his trailer to read the scripture, they are met with the thunderous rage of their parents.

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Yes, as well as working on their kind-of, sort-of relationship, Alice and FP (Skeet Ulrich) have, like the other Riverdale parents, been worried about their children becoming involved in the Gargoyle King’s dangerous game. Of course, out of all the parents they have the most to worry about, given that theirs are the children most likely to put themselves directly in danger in order to work out what is happening in the town. When it becomes clear that their parents know of and have been involved in the game in the past, Jughead and Betty are desperate for answers (as are the rest of us) but all they are met with is warnings to stay away from the mystery.

It seems as though the town may be safe from the scripture when the only copy is engulfed by flames, but when all of Riverdale High end up with a copy, it seems that the game has only just begun.

VERDICT:

“As Above, So Below” does an excellent job of taking Season 3 to a darker place than ever before, as well as setting up next week’s parental flashback episode, which will hopefully clear up a little more of the Gargoyle King’s origin, as well as unearthing the secret which Riverdale’s parents have been trying so hard to hide from their children.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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